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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Updated version of a classic text!, December 29, 2007
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This review is from: NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe (Hardcover-spiral)
The overwhelming number of reviews for this book on Amazon is a testimonial to its stature as a classic introductory stargazing book. The fact that the reviews are uniformly positive testifies to its exceptional quality. Now in its fourth edition, Nightwatch has been introducing amateur astronomers to the night sky for over two decades. Terence Dickinson is a prolific astronomy author and this is one of his most important and enduring works.
This is essentially the same as the older editions, some of which I also own. Four new things have been added to the new edition. Tables and data have been update through 2018, there are now southern hemisphere charts (for a Northern hemisphere book, who cares?), there is an updated section on digital astrophotography and some updated information on buying a telescope. I have read many introductory stargazing books and I always find the information about buying a telescope the least interesting. More often than not, the telescope is purchased first and the book is purchased later. An extended section on purchasing a telescope after the fact, after the proverbial horse has left the barn, seems wasteful. Dickerson's section is interesting however. I have not read all his works, but I have read several and Dickerson has uniformly dismissed "go-to" telescopes in favor of "learning the sky." This may be worthwhile for the serious amateur astronomer, but the serious amateur already knows the sky. The true novice may be aided by a telescope that aids him in finding celestial objects so that his cold and dark nights don't end prematurely in frustration. The frustrated novice may never become the "serious" amateur astronomer who benefits from knowing the sky.
To my knowledge, this is the first book in which Dickerson embraces GPS-guided "go-to" telescopes which require no knowledge of the sky. In an age of light pollution when the opportunity to view the sky are diminishing for most of us urban dwellers, Dickerson acknowledges the utility of GPS telescopes which have become self-guiding and essentially "idiot-proof." If you can get it into the darkness and onto a tripod, it can find for you a celestial object. This is truly an amazing advance in amateur astronomy and Dickerson finally acknowledges and embraces this development.
As a book, this is a thorough introductory text on stargazing. It is concise and the prose is well-written. Anyone wanting to pursue astronomy as a serious hobby will undoubtedly want more, but this is an excellent starting point. And for nearly a quarter century, this is where many budding amateur astronomers have started. This text is recommended without reservations. If you want to learn the sky, start here.
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